My partner and I recently broke up after a long while together. How do I know when I am ready to start trying to see other people? And what does safe dating even look like these days? Also, how do I stop listening to Folklore on repeat because at this point it’s just emotional self-harm?
Someone who’s just trying to inflict any unnecessary emotional pain on myself
Whew, a lot to unpack here. Breakups are always rough, but they’re especially difficult nowadays when the entire world is in disarray and all anyone wants to do is lay in their partner’s arms while having their head caressed like a pet cat. I get it. And I’m proud of you for recognizing that listening to Taylor Swift’s newest album on repeat is inflicting emotional pain on yourself. (Speak Now is okay though.)
Though I wish I could offer a neat formula for when you’ll be ready to see other people, these things differ from person to person. Some (sociopathic) friends can hop from boyfriend to boyfriend with little to no yearning in between. I, for one, am not one of those people. I’m embarrassingly prone to drunk texting, drunk calling, and sex dreaming about exes, and so the best, albeit hardest, way to move on for me is to cut off all contact. That means no hanging out in person, of course, but also no DM’ing an ex funny tweets or asking them for help on a p-set.
It’s easy to fall into the trap of distracting yourself with someone new to get your mind off a breakup. This method isn’t ineffective, per se. But is it possible to still pine over your ex while screwing a rebound? As someone who loves a good rebound, I can confidently say: yes. Once freshman year, while my one night stand went to use the bathroom, I scrolled through photos on my phone of my ex and me at high school prom as I sniffled back tears. Am I proud of it? No. But sometimes we think we’ve moved on, and our oxytocin levels surprise us, falling back to rock bottom again!
The closest thing I have to a formula is something I call the dinner date test. This standard can apply to both serial monogamists and those of you nursing your first heartbreak. This is the test: if you feel prepared to sit down for a dinner date with someone new, you’re probably ready to start dating again. Sounds easy enough, no? One caveat: you absolutely cannot bring up your ex in any way. No stories involving an ex. No ranting about your ex’s emotional unavailability or fear of commitment. Nothing! If you’re coming off a long relationship, chances are a lot of your happy memories of recent involve your ex in some form. And if you’re still in the pining, nostalgic phase of post-breakup life, then your ex is probably occupying a lot of mental real estate. If you’re dwelling on them all the time, a first date with someone new will distract you for an hour or two, but do little to actually heal your heartbreak.
All to say, you don’t want to be that person who yaks on and on about their ex on a first date. If you feel excited to go out for dinner with a new fling, then go for it! But if you think you’ll probably duck to the restroom before your appetizers arrive to ugly cry while scrolling through pictures of your ex and their dog from last Christmas, then maybe give it a few weeks. There’s really no rush — plus, you’d be doing the community a service by staying in.
When you are ready to hit the town again, here are some examples of what safe dating looks like these days:
- Masks on during sex
- Fucking your roommate (see my last column)
- Sexually charged walks around Beinecke Plaza
- Marriage pacts?
Like it or not, a vaccine is still months away and we have to accept that finding fucks is harder during a pandemic. Gone are the nights when you could make eyes at someone from across the SigEp dance floor and be following them to their dorm room 15 seconds later. The good old days. As my eloquent friend — who’s been in a loving relationship for 10 months now — put it: “I would hate to be single right now, because I’m a hoe. Fuck dates, I wanna fuck.”
Dating apps are your best friend right now, and even if you’re a self-righteous “I would never ever download Tinder” purist, it’s at least worth doing a preliminary sweep to see who’s available on campus. You might just swipe on the cutie from your conservation bio section who recently broke up with their high school girlfriend. Next time your prof says something slightly problematic in class, shoot them a “Oh my god, this is unbearable! … Coffee?” message over Zoom chat (but make sure that shit’s private!). It’s prime time to draw on that innovative, go-getter energy that got you into Yale and devote it toward creative scheming this year. You might also consider expanding your dating pool to younger students (no frosh though, you pervs), or conversely, start hanging out at the Divinity School to find an older, more introspective partner.
Hookup culture has certainly taken a hit during the pandemic, but most other dating options are totally still viable. Grab a coffee date outside — Maison sidewalk if you’re into voyeurism, Koffee for the backyard vibes, or Fussy if you’re trying not to be perceived. Dinner dates and trips to the farmer’s market are also still fair game. Be patient and don’t get discouraged by a few duds. Even if a date flops and you just want to be back in your ex’s arms, definitely don’t text them “I miss you” at 1:43 a.m. on a Tuesday. Just because they’re four time zones behind doesn’t mean they won’t see right through your thirsty texts.
If all these suggestions sound overwhelming and you still just want to binge listen to Folklore, then it’s probably not yet time to start looking for love again. And that’s fine! If indie pop songs are resonating with you, try to pinpoint the lyrics that hit you in the feels the hardest. Are they lyrics about betrayal? Loneliness? Abandonment? Name those feelings, turn that music off, and sit with those emotions! Whether it be the circumstances leading up to the breakup or the sudden disorientation of being single again, it’ll help to identify exactly what’s making you feel this “emotional self-harm.” Maybe journal or talk to a friend about it. Everyone heals differently (I’m more of an “All Too Well” gal myself), and being single can be a much needed opportunity to gain confidence and love for yourself. Plus, if you can survive a pandemic alone, you can survive anything.
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